By Matthew Marczi
When the Steelers first brought in Todd Haley as the new offensive coordinator, some criticized the decision to install what they pejoratively refer to as a ‘dink and dunk’ offense. As the season progressed and the team started losing games, many more joined in to the chorus.
This season has been no different, with the bubble screen—and other assorted screens—apparently being the bane of existence for some of the team’s fans.
Of course, the screen game is just one facet of the offense that serves multiple purposes. It serves as a surrogate running game when the offensive line struggles to get push, and it helps to set up for deep ball opportunities.
Nobody with any sense of how the game is played would deny that screens have their place in an offense. Sometimes it seems to define the way Pittsburgh plays on offense, but that perception is not the case, and is perhaps a result of the fact that the team often opens up the game with short passing to set up the rest of their offense.
Even as much of an apologist I am of the screen game though, even I was surprised when looking up some numbers yesterday. Consider this one:
Ben Roethlisberger leads all quarterbacks in the league with 23 completions on passes aimed 20 yards or more down the field.
Dink and dunk? I don’t think so.
In fact, Roethlisberger is tied with Joe Flacco for the third-most attempts of 20 yards or more league-wide with 57, an average of 5.2 attempts per game. Leading the way is Matthew Stafford with 59 and Andy Dalton with 58, but of course that’s what happens when your primary targets are physical specimens like Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green.
Roethlisberger’s deep ball accuracy of 43.9 percent places him seventh in the league among quarterback with at least 30 such attempts. Among that group, only Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers are above 50 percent.
In total yardage, his 694 ranks sixth, just eight yards behind both Wilson and Geno Smith, while Drew Brees has a stranglehold at the top with 847 yards. Peyton Manning and Andy Dalton tie for second with 730.
In addition, his seven touchdowns ranks tied for fifth, with Brees and, surprisingly, Nick Foles at the top with 11. It should be noted that his five interceptions is the second-most behind only Smith, though some of those came under pressing circumstances—and a wrong route by Antonio Brown.
Overall, 13.7 percent of Roethlisberger’s passes travel at least 20 yards down the field, which is ninth in the league among qualified quarterbacks. That’s more than Stafford, Brees, and Eli Manning. It’s more than Cam Newton and Carson Palmer, all quarterbacks with reputations for winging it down the field. Surprised?
Honestly, a little.